These past 12 months have been pretty significant, and dare we say it, unprecedented. At Bench, we’ve celebrated many achievements and overcome huge challenges. We’ve come out the other side, and hopefully, have learnt some lessons along the way.
In 2020, we started off the year with an outlook on ‘The Rise of Unified Marketing’ (no mention of the dreaded C-word there). And when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we considered how brands can uncover opportunities and how marketers can come out on top during a crisis. Hint: be agile and embrace change. Our media team has continued to stay on top of the latest channel trends, and in particular the rise of programmatic DOOH and BVOD. Our product team has been hugely successful in introducing new enhancements to the Bench platform, such as the Analytics dashboard and Annotations. We also hosted a webinar on Summer Movement in Digital Media with industry leaders, and kept our finger firmly on the pulse by sending out weekly industry insights.
It’s been a pretty huge year, to say the least. As we move into the New Year, we asked several key team members to share their perspective on 2020. Here’s what they had to say.
What’s a highlight from 2020?
Liam Garratt, Head of Performance: Despite it being an incredibly challenging year we were still able to work with our clients to put together some really interesting and, in my opinion, ahead-of-the-curve strategies. Doing some cool things with BVOD and minimum frequencies was a highlight, as was working with new partners to run offline attribution campaigns. Being shortlisted for Best Digital Services for the B&T Awards was also a highlight. Sadly we didn’t win, but it’s still great to see that our team’s work is being recognised!
Aamir Ibrahim, Head of Product: 2020 was a big year for the product team and the Bench Platform. Our plan was to bring portfolio tracking, reporting and insights capabilities to the platform. We were able to deliver new enhancements to the platform, which helped our users collaboratively manage and track their campaigns with more agile strategies.
India Aston, Technical Account Manager: We successfully onboarded new clients, understood new consumer trends and adopted our strategies. Bench’s adaptability and speed at understanding the market and front-footing important changes really instils client confidence.
Gil Snir, Chief Commercial Officer: Covid has tested us all but I am proud to say we were able to retain 100% of our team and will move into 2021 stronger than ever.
Sarah Boulos, Group Marketing Manager: We had the opportunity to engage with customers in a more meaningful way, launching our Week in Brief. Moving our Disrupting Digital Media event to one-on-one virtual sessions in March allowed us to connect with people even more. And for me personally, building our marketing team with a fabulous new hire!
Sam Thompson, Head of Media and Partnerships: The main highlight would be the integration of Vistar, a global leader in the DOOH DSP space, into our tech stack and customer’s media plans. The other highlight is our team’s amazing ability to pivot and embrace change. It is infectious and something I’m very proud of.
What are some of the challenges faced this year?
Liam Garratt, Head of Performance: The transition to working from home was certainly a challenge, but everyone adapted well. On top of this, some of our clients’ approaches to budgets this year have (understandably!) changed. We had to pivot from working with longer-term bookings to more of a month-to-month basis meaning that we had a lot more setups to deal with.
Aamir Ibrahim, Head of Product: Not being able to brainstorm in person, and not able to sit with users to get their feedback on new ideas and designs presented some challenges on how we worked on new features. Providing timely support to our users became a higher priority.
India Aston, Technical Account Manager: It was challenging to get long-term visibility on clients, and to build client relationships as it’s a little harder online.
Gil Snir, Chief Commercial Officer: Planning had to be more agile as forecasts were more uncertain than ever before. Customer circumstances were so varied and our response had to be both dynamic and empathic. Transparent communication was critical and we truly navigated out of the waters together as one team.
Sarah Boulos, Group Marketing Manager: Adapting to a new way of living and working (and life) without really knowing how permanent it was going to be has been the overriding challenge. And then of course knowing when to pause, take it all in and continue.
What’s a trend from 2020 that you believe is here to stay?
Liam Garratt, Head of Performance: A big emphasis on transparency. This is something we wholly support and as a business are taking steps to open out even further.
Aamir Ibrahim, Head of Product: Relying on tools such as Slack, Zoom, Google Docs or any platform that helps teams collaborate more effectively. As some form of working remotely will be part of the new normal, the tools that enable us to effectively work together are going to be big.
Gil Snir, Chief Commercial Officer: Digitisation of all media and the connectivity of retail to e-commerce will increase quickly in 2021.
Sam Thompson, Head of Media and Partnerships: I think we will remain working in a home environment, commuting less, and consuming media in different patterns to what we have done in the past. This creates exciting opportunities for brands, particularly when using programmatic technology to action these changes.
What do you have in store for the year ahead?
Liam Garratt, Head of Performance: It’s a pretty rapid period of growth. We are already looking ahead to see how we can start introducing some of our newer channels and partners into our plans for even greater success.
Aamir Ibrahim, Head of Product: Our strategy for 2021 is to unlock more visibility, control and insight through the platform for teams.
Gil Snir, Chief Commercial Officer: Bench has a suite of new solutions we will be rolling out that are based on giving advertisers more clarity and more control over their digital media budgets.
Sarah Boulos, Group Marketing Manager: Without giving too much away, we’ll be going under the hood and you’ll be seeing the Bench brand in new ways. Stay tuned.
Sam Thompson, Head of Media and Partnerships: I think 2021 will be the year of programmatic DOOH. As we move back to ‘normal’, I expect the industry will evolve and we’ll be there at the forefront.
Any thoughts or advice for 2021?
Liam Garratt, Head of Performance: Got a crystal ball handy? In all seriousness, I think planning further in advance than I/we/you/they normally would is going to be a big part of succeeding next year. As brands recover from Covid (I was trying not to mention the C-word), there needs to be a bigger focus on the long-term media plan rather than just looking at short-term plans and metrics. Start preparing for the deprecation of the cookie. I know we are.
Aamir Ibrahim, Head of Product: This year taught us to be agile, to focus on genuinely providing value to our customers, to be resilient and to embrace new technology. This is how we should be planning our strategy regardless of whether there is a global pandemic or not. Try to forget the bad from 2020, but take the learnings with you.
India Aston, Technical Account Manager: Clients are and continue to be everything so put them at the core and find ways to create additional value.
Gil Snir, Chief Commercial Officer: Brands lagging in digital adoption, cross-device understanding of their customers and e-commerce will suffer, while the ones who have been doing this well for years will thrive. The key lesson of 2020 has been the importance of agile decision making.
Sarah Boulos, Group Marketing Manager: Keep your finger on the pulse in the industry and future-proof what you can from a people and tech perspective. Understand the tools and tech out there, particularly in the digital marketing space, and partner with teams/agencies that continue to evolve and respond to change.
Sam Thompson, Head of Media and Partnerships: Embrace the change. Don’t be afraid to be bold in your creative messaging and media strategies. 2020 has shown us that anything can happen, at any time. Use the technology and the data to create opportunity. Also make sure to work on your 1st party data strategies with the diminishing of the 3rd party cookie. Talk to us as we can help to guide you through quite a complex environment. Looking forward to a great 2021 ahead!